Thursday, 1 September 2016

Hong Kong as a Startup Hub: Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen

Hong Kong as a Startup Hub in a Network Economy

(This article is an extract from HONG KONG AS A STARTUP HUB: Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen published on 29 Jan 2016 by Prof Richard Wong, K C Kwok and Rachel Chan.)

Each startup ecosystem is unique with its own economic, social and political underpinnings.  Hong Kong could not emulate directly the success of Silicon Valley, or that of other startup hubs in the world.  

Hong Kong Needs More Than Tech Talents

Globalization and technology have made it much easier nowadays for people from different locations to work and collaborate with one another. It also means that it does not matter where scientific discoveries and breakthrough technologies originate — the important thing is who commercializes them.  Seen from this perspective, Hong Kong needs not just more tech talents, but also designers, product development and marketing specialists as well as professionals who understand technology and innovation and are experts in commercialization. 

Not So Much About Funding – But Capacity Building

Many stakeholders believe that the seemingly lack of risk capital is just a symptom of the early stage development of the Hong Kong startup ecosystem.  Hong Kong should invest in attracting global accelerators to Hong Kong and developing special access for local startups in accelerator programs located in top startup ecosystems.

Positioning Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a city that works and works fast. It is well positioned to be an accelerator for startups to build and scale their international business and to realise their global ambitions. Hong Kong should:
  • Plays to its strengths as a service economy: Innovation (whether it is technology or non-technology related) is likely to accelerate in many services, within the service sector itself as well as through the “servitisation” of the manufacturing industry. Hong Kong is a service economy, and should take pride in and ride on its achievements.
  • Be A Super Connector to the World: Connectivity is the new currency in a globalised, digital and knowledge economy. In a network economy, Hong Kong is well positioned to play the role of a ‘Super Connector’ in linking ideas, capital, talents, production facilities and markets.
  • Serve as a Test Market: Hong Kong is an ideal place for market validation – for both B2C and B2B businesses. 

Catalysts for Growth

To fully realise Hong Kong’s potential as a startup hub, different players in the ecosystem need to build and strengthen their global footprints and connections. Hong Kong also has to strengthen its role as a “Customer” of innovation. Both the private and the public sectors need to see the value of working with startups as their innovation partners.

Policy makers and regulators have to understand the nature of startup businesses, striking a balance between enabling disruption to happen and ensuring that public interests are protected. The Hong Kong startup ecosystem should not be restricted by the geographical confines of the HKSAR but is intimately connected with the ecosystems in the Pearl River Delta and to the world.  

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